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Cyberthreats and the difference between viruses, worms, and trojans

Modern-day cybersecurity has to be constantly on guard to protect your network from cyberthreats. There are many different types of cyberthreats, but the majority of them can be sorted into one of three categories: viruses, worms, or trojans.

All of these cyberthreats are considered malware and can do significant damage to your business if you aren’t prepared to combat them. While they all share some similarities, it’s important to understand how they’re different to make sure your cybersecurity plan is ready to combat whatever threatens your business.

What is a Virus?

Similar to a virus in the medical field, computer viruses are pieces of malicious code that attach themselves to healthy working programs. Once the code is launched or executed, the infection is initiated. Viruses can execute numerous damaging tasks. Damage from a virus can be widespread and infect other connected systems, corrupting or deleting files, as well as stealing data and transmitting it to outside sources.

Viruses cannot be remotely controlled, but once initiated they can replicate themselves in your system causing massive amounts of damage in a relatively short time frame. Viruses come in all shapes and sizes and can be attached to both executable programs and file types. The best way to prevent this form of attack is by only downloading software through verified sources and carefully vetting your email attachments.

What is a Worm?

Worms are similar to viruses in that they replicate themselves inside of a network. However, they differ in how they’re implemented. Unlike viruses that have to be initiated by a user to be activated, worms can be activated remotely. Once they enter a system they can quickly spread to connected parts of the network. The main side effect of this rapid replication is exhaustion of system resources causing your network to fail or slow considerably.

In connected networks, worms can spread from one system to the next in quick succession. They do this by locating and spoofing network email addresses to spread malicious code from one user to the next.

Anti-malware software is one of the main ways you can prevent worms from entering your system. These programs can also find, quarantine, and destroy worms that have already infected your system. Since worms can infect multiple parts of your operating system, in many cases a safe system restore may be the best way to remove all traces of the malicious code completely.

What is a Trojan?

A trojan is a type of hidden virus that gets its name from the famous Trojan horse of Greek mythology. A trojan masquerades as a safe-to-use program, only to inflict damage once downloaded. The stealthy nature of a trojan is designed to give remote users access to areas of a network that are generally well-protected. When these areas are breached, it can lead to disastrous consequences for your business.

As an example, trojans can hide malicious code inside of a company login form where user credentials are entered. Once usernames and passwords are used to unlock secure parts of the network, these details are then sent to an attacker who can begin to inflict damage to core parts of a system. Attackers can then come and go as they please until the breach is detected.

Firewalls, virtual desktops, and Host Intrusion Protection (HIPS) are some of the practical ways you can prevent this form of attack from happening. Many of these solutions are available through managed service providers who can greatly improve your data protection.

Cybersecurity plays a vital role in an organization’s ability to keep its data protected. By understanding cyberthreats and the differences between viruses, worms, and trojans, you’ll be better prepared and equipped to prevent these attacks from happening.